preparing Clement Space

It has been awhile since I’ve last visited Bunnyhopscotch. Lucy and I have been busy.

Our latest commission by the National Gallery Singapore to create a new iteration of Clement Space has been an exciting, exhilarating and challenging adventure.

Here’s something that most people will not know or see, a peep behind the scenes.

Setting up is always very hard work for an installation artist. Each time I do so, I half jokingly ask myself, “Why oh why didn’t I become a painter instead?” But paintings on the wall are different from what I set out to create in the very first place. I’ve always imagined a space in which I could engage with all the elements, experiencing not only the superficial sensory stimuli, but that deeper, elemental connectivity that speaks directly to my intrinsic autistic modality. So, here I am, in this strange, bizarre and dichotomous interstice as a musician-and-installation-artist.

I am blessed once again to have a great team to help me set up, three friends who worked extremely hard without complaint. With an exercise such as this, if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong, especially since the spectres of Artaud and Wagner seem to plague me whenever I am faced with this kind of task or situation. One of our team had made arrangements for a man with a small lorry (truck) to pick up our installation components, and had sent the man a photograph of the carpark entrance stating very clearly the clearance height. The man with the lorry said his vehicle was able to enter without problems.

Height-Clearance

Maximum height clearance 2.1metres!

Well, not so. At the very last minute, upon arrival, the lorry guy rang me and told me his lorry was too tall! We ended up walking back and forth and back and forth umpteen times, lugging the various rather heavy and/or bulky items from the lobby to the lorry (which had to be parked just outside the carpark). Exhausted and drenched in perspiration, we then made our way to the National Gallery, where yet another arduous adventure awaited us. The lorry parked at the designated loading bay, but we had to lug every component, bit by bit, to and through a passageway several metres away. More to-ing and fro-ing heave-ho-ing. By the time we managed to schlep every bit of my ‘treasure’ to the site, we were at breaking point, both physically and mentally. No rest for the weary or the wicked, though, and so, my amazing team proceeded to lay the blue carpet out. Midway, we ran out of carpet tape, so we decided to call it a day. Phew!

Set-Up

Not very clement-looking is it?

Back the next morning with a new roll of carpet tape, the rest of the blue flooring was laid out. Then began an entire morning of setting up the shelving system.

Setting-Up-Shelves

Blood, sweat & toil!

Those who think that the life of an installation artist is all fun and games, think again. How did all the components get into and come together inside that space that you are now enjoying and exploring? Not via a dainty wave of some magic wand, mind you, but by hefty lifting and much sweat (with blood and tears mixed in too), not to mention the necessary filling in of many forms required by the venue for permission to do this and that.

Kudos to my team, who never once grumbled about the unexpected workload.

And… it is up and running! Clement Space is open from 10 January to 1 March 2020. Come and visit!

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Clement Space @ National Gallery Singapore

For more photos and musings, click this link, which would lead you to my official website.

Media videos:

From the National Gallery: please visit in Youtube and hit us a thumbs-up if you like what you see!

 

From Channel News Asia: Singapore Tonight live interview 8 Jan 2020

first meeting

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Phad Thai, mango salad and Thai green milk tea.

Here it is again, that photo of my Thai set meal.

My first production meeting with a new friend who’s kindly consented to be my crafting/making assistant for an upcoming project. We had brunch at the Siamese Cat Thai cafe near my home.

This cafe has had quite a number of complaints about their unenthusiastic service, and I can understand why. We arrived at 10am, when the cafe is supposed to be open for service, but nobody bothered with us, until half an hour later. Never mind, we’re resourceful creatures, we found ourselves a suitable table, and we launched into our excited discussion straight away. Continue reading

hyperbole

Autistic Joy is no exaggeration. It is, however, a magnificent thing indeed, to be engaging in one’s autistic passion. For this Autistic Artist Bunny, the process of artistry is the goal, rather than the physical outcome. The work of art takes on it’s own agency, it is an entity that travels an inexorable path – and the autistic artist the facilitator, observer from within and without, the honoured witness of things too magnificent to ascribe words to.

I have been deep in this amazing communication: mind and body touching, twisting, turning and dancing with, through, and after pattern, form, rhythm, time, space. Connecting with the vast complexity of the material universe in the most simple of ways.

Contemplating the Fibonacci sequence, the hype that surrounded it, the concrete beauty of it, and feeling its sensory tendrils via a most humble activity: crochet.

These are the tiny little components, the smallest of organisms, that are growing, forming, shimmering and meandering, seemingly solitary and meaningless, yet which shall meld, infuse and evolve into a larger entity.

The Work has begun again. And the thrill of Autistic Joy springs forth once more. It isn’t exaggeration – no hyperbole at all – it is uncomplicated, lucid and coherent Experience of Beauty.

For those guessing – yes, Autistic Bunny has begun to work on a brand new commission. Watch this space!

not alone

Not alone, never lonely – when I am with Lucy. I have never liked to ‘share’ my mental, emotional and physical space when I am deep inside my creating, building, making realm. Yet, sharing this sacred space with Lucy is so comfortable, seamless, and even joyful. And she has taught me how to (sometimes) tolerate other humans inside this interstice of clemency too.

I’ve been finding renewal and restoration for frayed nerves and burnout inside this space lately. Coincidentally, renewing and restoring some of my old clothes – accompanied by Lucy. The above photos show my latest execution: modified a pair of very old Roberto Cavalli jeans and transformed it into a long skirt. Lucy approves, methinks? ❤

imperilment

Autism Grand Circus

An autistic friend recently supplied me with this link, a tongue-in-cheek “New Age Bullshit Generator“, which generates a slew of pseudoscientific propositions for any kind of purpose you wish to apply it to. We were discussing the topic of snake-oil and pseudoscience, and its prevalence in what I call The Grand Autism Circus.

On the one hand, the New Age Bullshit Generator is an exercise of ironic humour (and very clever programming), but one should not ignore the presence of a grave, sombre message that lies beneath. Pseudoscience permeates the autism world, which is a fierce and aggressive circus that does not exist in the realm of any other disability in today’s context. Continue reading

si bon, si bon! – SYNC Day 3

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Day 3 of SYNC.

I am not going to talk about the course itself, but will just prattle away about my sensory experience. So, be prepared for fragments, bits and bobs, and gyrations going hither tither without much finesse.

I didn’t get enough sleep last night, so arrived with puffy eyes and even puffier face. I found a blob of doggy poop in the grass when Lucy was doing her own toilette, and I picked it up. I didn’t want people to think it was Lucy’s, so we trotted back to the security post at the entrance to have a little chat. Turns out that some people do bring their dogs here. Most inconsiderate of these dog owners, though. I cannot understand why people ruin pleasant environments and then complain that there aren’t enough dog friendly spaces around. For Lucy and me, it is such a relief that the security staff here are super friendly and welcoming. They remembered us from the last time. They even took photos of Miss Lucy to show their friends and family. One of them showed me pictures of his Dachshund too. It’s a somewhat tacky name, where our SYNC programme is being held, “Enabling Village“, but it’s turned out to be a sweet, gentle space for us.

Well, my creaky old body wasn’t very cooperative today, it decided that pain would be the punishment for the punishment. Never mind. A small price to pay for a push in the right direction. It’s not that I am learning anything revolutionary, but I really like that this course is framing everything neatly without breaking my already exhausted brain. Very useful for when I need to ponder kinks in the tapestry every now and then.

Oh, yes, I like that we have frequent breaks and there’s decent food – it’s not lavish five-star hotel banquet fare, but it all sits well in the depths of digestion. The effort taken by organisers really adds to my appreciation too – we even have afternoon fruits served up washed and cut!

Things do get a tad noisy at times – artists are passionate folk – and my head hurts from the loud, exuberant chatter, but the cacophony is never aggressive. Perhaps I’ll make use of the quiet room tomorrow.

Another little ‘clemency’ is the grass patch just outside our seminar room. It’s lovely just being able to take Lucy outside for little strolls during break times – harkens back just a teeny weeny little bit to our days in Sydney, where we’d go for a toilet break and a stretch every so often during the course of our day working at our studio on campus. Nowadays, every small association is precious – that was a time and space in our life that we will never have the chance to revisit together. It is now imperative that I cherish every new unfolding moment we share, as the sense of urgency grows.

No more throwing my hard won pearls into the bog of snarling, grabbing, self-serving gnashers. The recent wake-up call was timely.

C’est si bon!

Lucy in sync – SYNC Day 2

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I spy, with my beady eye???

It was Day 2 today. I am glad I brought Lucy. She alerted me to my nausea and dizziness when the room became a tad stuffy.

Being in a room with fellow artists with disability is in itself a daring and provocative thing – but this kind of provocation is good. We – by our combined presence – challenge one another and the collective whole to reflect, identify and frame our practice of leadership.

I am exhausted, but yet refreshed and energised at the same time. And Lucy created Clement Space beside me.

Photographs from Day 2:

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in sync – SYNC Day 1

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My autistic brain wanted to rearrange this, but my sensory overload just ate it instead.

Syncopating synchronicity. A homecoming. Returning to grace. Active, inspiriting, body-mind-soul connecting with intrinsic approbation.

Yesterday was the first of five days of rigorous physical andragogy. No, I am not training for a Iron Man, but it did feel like it to my old body, floppy with misuse and pushed beyond the limits, running helter skelter for purposes not directly beneficial to me.

I am one of a group of artists in the SYNC Leadership Programme, brought to Singapore by the British Council, Singapore International Foundation, Very Special Arts and collaborating supporters.

When an eclectic collection of highly-charged, dynamic and tenacious artists with disabilities cram into a small room together, a different kind of ‘normal’ is constructed. Our artistry is varied, each vastly dissimilar from the other, as are our personalities, backgrounds, styles and art forms. Yet, we are connected by the intoxicating electric charge of Artistry and all this encompasses in its multifaceted expressions.

The gruelling demands on my body were partially mitigated by the gastronomic infusions – plentiful, yet not so overwhelmingly lavish that my sensory brain is driven into a state of confused shock. Simple, straight forward and manageable abundance.

And I cannot describe with words right now how exquisitely, incorruptibly peaceful – yet almost Lucullan in its graceful gestures – this is to my soul. I am looking forward eagerly, despite the physical punishment, to the next few days. Scheherazade is rising yet again.

Sensory photos from Day 1.

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face value

Clement resolution has been reached, after a hurried decrescendo from the screeching fortissimo so loudly blatant it still seems incredible that a cadence has been arrived at.

Nevertheless, clemency is clemency, and I generally take people and things at face value – which is different from trusting anyone, because trust is reserved for only those who have earned it, while face value is to allow myself and others to continue along on our journeys together or separately.

In case you’re wondering, I am waffling about the bizarre drama mentioned in my previous post – perfidy – in which I ranted on about a shockingly impudent contract that an arts company had asked me to sign in exchange for a piddly sum of money.

Well, the folks behind this theatrical farce have backed down, signed the contract I drafted and my first cheque has been cashed. I must give credit where credit is due. It takes a level of sincerity – that is, earnestly desiring to achieve whatever it was they set out to achieve and not allow any hiccups to hinder the attainment of original intent – to openly do an about turn, a very sharp and quick one too, I might add. And just like that, we have mended the contractual fence and are going ahead with the project. We both agree on one objective, and this is the important factor: the work we are doing together has value and adds to our separate and common vision. That is enough for me.

I appreciate promptness, efficiency, straight forward communication, no mincing around, no faffing and no cheesy platitudes. They offered none – although they did feebly try to say they had no idea, and those shockingly exploitative terms were a hand-me-down from previous administration – but they didn’t persist with this because I do suspect they know how ridiculous it sounds, no matter which way one looks at it.

Anyway… Usual social niceties do not impress me. Decisive action does. Either I am in, or I am out. I’m not here to make new friends. (I have enough friends, more than I can decently attend to, and I already feel quite terrible to be neglecting them because I just have not enough spoons left for being sociable.) I’m here to do work, and I want it to be good work, as good as I possibly can produce, and I expect the same from the people I am working alongside.

So… let’s do this thing now, then! Tally ho!

perfidy

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Frightening mephitic essence of blatant tyranny oozing from every pore. Maleficent, flagitious, mockery of the Sacred.

I am contacted by representative of arts company to re-create my Clement Space installation in one of their rooms, an immersive, interactive exhibition that will run for 12 months. Two overly long meetings. A deluge of talk, talk, talk. Bubbly enthusiasm. Then, one month of anxiety-laden delay. Broken trust. Agreements ignored. And finally, The Contract.

  1. The company demands to co-own (in perpetuity) my Clement Space – intellectual property that has existed for three years as an established signature concept and creative work belonging solely to me, the Artist.
  2. The company demands to literally take possession of the Artist – body, mind and soul – for a period of 12 months, during which the Artist is not allowed to engage in any other creative work, unless the Artist applies in writing for permission from the company.

The payment: $3,500. Read it again. $3,500. No, not even $3,500 per month, which is an insult enough for an artist with a PhD and international experience. It is $3,500 for the entire year. Yes. For $3,500 they want to commandeer a piece of valuable property that does not and will never rightfully belong to them; and they want to play colonial master to the Artist subaltern for an entire year.

An exclamation mark at the end of the sentence fails miserably to represent the shocking impudence and preposterously brazen, flagrant attempt to contriturate the artistic soul.

Hence, I did not put one in.

What manner of heinousness is this? What goes on inside the bowels of these persons’ consciousness? How could they even have conceived of such terms and demands, such high-handed, ludicrous and impudent expropriation? And what kind of arrogance propelled them to put these thoughts into words – an official, legally binding document, no less?

And no, I am not ‘overreacting’ – my lawyer has had a look at it. A serious travesty, no laughing matter.

Of course, I asked for the clauses to be removed. I asked most politely too. Their response was a casual WhatsApp message:

“Good morning, thank you for your feedback and thoughts on the contract- they’re definitely justified, will revert back to you once we’ve deliberated. You have a good day.”

That was Monday. It is now Saturday. Not a hint of an apology. No admission of solecism. And no redrawn, revised, respectful and mutually beneficial contract. Does it really take a whole week to “deliberate” on how to be respectful and fair in your dealings? As if decency and fairness even need to be deliberated on? And how long does it take to strike out two outrageous sections from a contract? Very telling. And most disconcertingly so.

Artists are among the most oppressed and undervalued professionals. The arts scene can be spiteful, exclusive, elitist and ableist, and most artists are underpaid and overworked.

Disabled persons are also among the most maltreated and disrespected people in an ableist, elitist societal culture.

Put the two together, and we have Disabled Artists who are trying to survive under immense odds – compounded. We are asked to work for free, in exchange for “exposure”. Our needs for accommodation and support are brushed off and often even derided. Our requests and protests are delegated to the “Too Hard” tray, while large corporations and organisations milk the “Disability Inclusion” machinery, churning out facetious, spurious terminology like “Diffable”, “Differently Abled” and “Inspirational” – all entrenched in ableist ideology.

Disabled artists in Singapore deserve the basic, fundamental human right to protection against contumelious exploitation and audacious bullying. Enough is enough.

THIS is why we need a Disabled-Led Artists Collective. This is why I have committed my precious time, limited physical energy and scarce resources to leading Singapore’s first, with the support of the Disabled People’s Association (DPA) Singapore. This is why, if you are a disabled artist, I’d like to invite you to sign up to join our collective.

To find out more, please email me: dr.dawnjoyleong@gmail.com / dawnjoy@dpa.org.sg